Rave Reviews for Solar Homes: A Survey of Homeowners in California

Released by: Environment California Research & Policy Center

Executive Summary
As President George W. Bush pronounced America’s addiction to oil during his 2006 State-of-the-Union Address, California unveiled the nation’s biggest solar power program, the California Solar Initiative. The Initiative sets its sights on building a million solar roofs and a mainstream, self-sufficient solar market in ten years.

With a backdrop of high energy prices, concern over global warming, and a growing desire among Americans to achieve energy independence, the authors of this report set out to inform policy makers, homebuilders and consumers about the potential to integrate solar panels into new homes, making a previously boutique technology as affordable and common-place as insulation and double-paned windows.

With this report, we quantify and qualify the motivations and experiences of homeowners who have recently purchased a new home in which solar panels were added as a standard feature. The report analyzes survey responses from five different developments in northern and southern California to provide some insights into the level of consumer interest in energy efficient home design and into the potential for a mainstream solar home market.

As Figure 1 shows, the ability to save money was the top motivator. Defying stereotypes about the typical solar power enthusiast, the homeowners were nearly five times more motivated by saving money than protecting the environment. This statistic may indicate that solar power has the potential to become a mainstream technology for the budget-conscious American homeowner.

The report recommends policies needed to grow the solar home market, calling for aggressive federal, state and local action to build a robust, self-sufficient and mainstream solar power market within the next ten years.

Ultimately, building solar homes provides a number of benefits to the homebuyer, homebuilder and society at-large.

Everyone benefits from the economies of scale achieved by incorporating solar technologies into large scale developments as well as an enhanced ability to design the home to best incorporate solar technologies. In addition, builders benefit by attracting more interested buyers and, as the survey results show, a highly satisfied customer.

Further, homeowners benefit from being able to roll the cost of a solar system into low-interest mortgages and take advantage of rebates, tax credits and tax deductions to achieve a net cost savings within their first month of ownership.